Sailing mourns death of Olympic gold medallist Andrew Simpson
Published 10/05/2013 | 15:05
Royal Yachting Association Olympic manager Stephen Park says the death of Andrew Simpson has been like losing a family member, with the news leaving the British sailing team feeling "broken".
The 36-year-old double Olympic medallist died yesterday in an accident in San Francisco Bay as he trained with the Artemis Racing team ahead of this summer's America's Cup.
Simpson, the Swedish team's strategist, was trapped under their AC72 catamaran after it capsized and attempts to revive him on and off the water were unsuccessful.
The Chertsey-born sailor, affectionately known as Bart, was targeting America's Cup success having won gold at the Beijing Olympics before taking silver on the home waters of Weymouth and Portland at London 2012.
Simpson's success came in the Star class in both Games alongside Iain Percy, who was also onboard yesterday but returned unscathed.
"I think a number of the sailors would describe themselves as broken," Park told Press Association Sport.
"It is always very difficult to know how to feel.
"Andrew, like all the sailors that have been in the team a wee while, spent a lot of time away through the Olympic cycle.
"Sailors spend 200 days a year together so it is a very close-knit family that we head into. When you lose one of your family, it is a very difficult time.
"We have had a conference call with everybody on the team this morning and we did communicate with them straight away last night.
"It is a difficult time for them and they will all have to deal with it in their own way and we will try and provide what support we can to them.
"And indeed we still have people competing in Italy, considering whether it is appropriate or not to carry on.
"Most will, but one or two will find it particularly difficult and will probably choose to withdraw from racing today."
The cause of the accident is still unclear and Park was not keen to speculate on what happened, saying it is a "time for mourning and reflection".
Simpson, who leaves a wife and two young children, was particularly close to Percy and five-time Olympian Ben Ainslie.
"I spoke with Iain last night quite quickly after the incident," Park said.
"As you can imagine, Iain is completely devastated. He was onboard at the time and took the responsibility of breaking the news to the family.
"That is very difficult and, of course, Andrew is his best mate.
"With Ben as well, those three guys got into all sorts of scrapes as they have developed as sailors over the last 25 years or so.
"They have actually known each other since they were young kids so it will be very difficult times for those two."
Park revealed the sailing group has already discussed what might be an appropriate tribute to Simpson, whose death will be investigated in the United States.
It is not the first time an AC72 has been involved in such an incident and Artemis Racing chief executive officer Paul Cayard was quick to pay his respects.
"We obviously had a tragic day on the bay and our thoughts and prayers are with Bart Simpson's - Andrew Simpson's - family, his wife and kids, and also with the rest of the team-mates," he said in a short statement to reporters in San Francisco.
"It is a shocking experience to go through and we have a lot to deal with in the next few days in terms of assuring everybody's well-being.
"The boat itself is under control, but it is certainly not the first of our concerns. We are focused on the people.
"That is what we are working with and on and we will give you more information when we are able to."